how can we help the poor?


I finally got around to finishing off Banker to the poor that I’d been reading when I did my last post here. I thought I’d just write out a few of Yunus’ final thoughts and see what others think of what he has to say.

Here goes:

When we want to help the poor, we usually offer the charity. Most often, we use charity to avoid recognising the problem and finding a solution for it. Charity becomes the way to shrug off our personal responsibility. But charity is no solution to poverty. Charity only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity appeases our consciences.

The real issue is creating a level playing field for everybody – rich and poor countries, powerful and small enterprises – giving every human being a fair chance. As globalisation continues to encroach on our socioeconomic realities, the creation of this level playing field can become seriously endangered unless we initiate a global debate and generally agree on the features of a “right” architecture of globalisation, rather than drift into something terribly wrong in the absence of a framework for action. This framework will no doubt have many features, but we can keep in mind the following: The rule of the “strongest takes all” must be replaced by a rule that ensures everybody a place and a piece of the action. “Free trade” must mean freedom for the weakest. The poor must be active players, rather than passive victims, in the process of globalisation. Globalisation must promote harmony and partnership between the big and small economies, rather than become a vehicle for unhindered takeovers by the rich economies….

… Human society has tried in many ways to ensure equality of opportunity, but poverty remains. We expect the state to take care of the poor and have wound up with massive bureaucracies to look after the poor. A large amount of taxpayer’s money is set aside to finance the programmes administered by the bureaucracies. But whatever governmental programmes have achieved, they certainly have not created equality of opportunity. Poverty is very often handed down from one generation to the next….

…In order to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, poverty, we must go back to the drawing board. Concepts, institutions, and analytical frames – the conditions that ceated poverty – cannot end poverty.

So what do you think..?

is Yunus unrealistic/wrong? He has a particular point of view gained from running his bank (and the place of micro-credit), but what about all the work done the world over in the name of charity?

Tim Southcombe